Rumors, talks, and speculation have been going on outside the Columbus Blue Jackets locker room for the last several weeks about whom from outside the organization the squad can add to get them back in the playoff race. As it turns out, the solution might have come from Springfield, the Blue Jackets’ American Hockey League affiliate.
The Blue Jackets have recently called-up defenseman Grant Clitsome and forward Matt Calvert and both have made a profound impact on the squad in Columbus’ four game point streak. Both players have a pair of goals each as Calvert has played in seven games and Clitsome in five.
“I have talked to both of them before they played their first games and really it is all on them,” Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. “They’re the ones that can make it difficult on us by playing good hockey and they both have done that.”
The players have the hopes of a restless city and its fan base resting on their shoulders. Calvert and Clitsome do not seem to mind the added pressure of helping the Blue Jackets play catch-up in the Western Conference standings. Columbus remains tied for 12thin the Western Conference and are five points out of eighth in the conference.
“I am just going out there and taking it game-by-game and just trying to do my best every game,” Clitsome said. “I am not really concerned about that too much.”
“You eventually everyday feel more part of the team and more responsible with bigger roles on the team,” Calvert said. “Obviously you want to win every night. And I think me and (Clitsome) feel big responsibilities to help the team win… You feel the pressure a little bit but at the same time, we want put pressure on ourselves to be successful and be a playoff team.”
In the Blue Jackets’ stunning 3-2 overtime victory against Florida on Wednesday, Clitsome assisted on the game-tying and game-winning goals.
“Clitsome has been a guy that we’ve utilized offensively,” Arniel said. “But he has been very efficient and very steady on the defensive side as well. He is a guy that is making the most of his time that was thrown at him and the chances given.”
On Clitsome’s first assist on Wednesday, Antoine Vermette scored after getting a rebound caused by a shot from Clitsome in the final minute of regulation to tie the game at two. In the final minute of overtime with the Blue Jackets on a power play, Clitsome’s shot from the point was redirected by R.J. Umberger which beat Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun.
“I got lots of opportunities and a lot of ice time and put in some key situations” on the road trip, Clitsome said.
Calvert has not put up the offensive numbers Clitsome has posted, but has played solid. During the third period of Wednesday’s game, Calvert bumped Kristian Huselius off the second line and Calvert finished the game skating with Umberger and Vermette.
“It has been a real good learning experience, been getting used to the speed of the game,” Calvert said. “I am adapting well. I’d like to contribute offensively a little more but for right now, it is about providing energy.”
“He has been a spark on the offensive side,” Arniel said. “With his quickness, he drew that penalty in overtime (Wednesday) night trying to stay with him.”
Sometimes in hockey, the business side can dictate whether a player can keep a spot with a team. In the next week, Calvert will approach the 10 game mark for the season. Tom Sestito played well during his recent call-up to Columbus but was sent down after nine games. By playing a 10thgame means a player has started a new year on his contract.
Calvert is still living in a Columbus hotel and has yet been able to get an apartment.
“You can’t really worry about your future,” Calvert said. “As long as you’re playing good and it gives you the best chance to stay up here. You just have to hope the rest takes care of itself. You can’t look at (Sestito’s situation) like that. You have to go day-by-day.”
The only player not participating in Friday’s morning skate in Nationwide Arena’s attached practice facility was Umberger whose wife Cara gave birth to a seven pound girl Dealney Rose. He is expected to play Saturday against St. Louis.